Witness Protection and Services Bill [B102-97]: discussion

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Justice and Correctional Services

24 August 1998
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Meeting report

JUSTICE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 August 1998
WITNESS PROTECTION AND SERVICES BILL [B102-97]: DISCUSSION

Documents handed out:
Witness Protection and Services Bill (Draft 3, number WIT13)
Report on Witness Protection in KwaZulu-Natal

SUMMARY
The committee considered the proposed amendments to the Witness Protection and Services Bill (Draft 3, number WIT13) and had reached S7(1) of the amendments by the end of the meeting. Most amendments were of a technical nature and did not lead to lengthy discussions.

MINUTES
Section 1
Branch office, rather than regional office, was recommended by Mr Labuschagne because it would more clearly show that it forms part of the main office. Mr J de Lange, the Chairperson, agreed that "regional" should not be used in order to avoid confusion with already existing regional offices in the Department of Justice. He however suggested an alternative to "branch". Finally it was recommended that the definition of branch office be deleted and combined with the definition of "office", in order to avoid problems with the interpretation of the phrase "attached to the office" used on more than one occasion in the Bill.

"Interested functionary" and "proceedings" were introduced into the definitions in order to avoid unnecessary repetition.

In line with Canadian law the definition "protection agreement" (in 1(xi)) and "or association" in (1(xxi)) were included in the Bill.

Section 2
It was agreed by the committee, on the suggestion of Mr De Lange, that the Minister should not only consult with the National Director, but also with the Minister of Safety and Security. S2(2)(a) will have to be changed.

Section 3
Ms Camerer (NP) suggested that the wording of S3(1) be changed to read that the Director shall exercise the powers and duties conferred upon him as it becomes necessary. According to her the use of "must" is prescriptive and will in effect mean that he has to carry out certain functions and duties even if it is not necessary or appropriate at the specific time. The committee accepted this proposal. Mr de Lange proposed that S3(1) be divided into two separate sentences for easier reading.

Mr de Lange recommended that it was unnecessary to burden the Minister with the appointment of the Deputy-Director General and that the Director-General could be given this duty. The important consideration was that the Director General be a political appointment rather than somebody that moved through the ranks.

Section 4
Mr de Lange expressed concern with the phrase "attached to the Office" in S4(2)(a), because if it is strictly interpreted according to the definition of Office in section 1, it will only refer to the people attached to the main office and not to the branch offices. In the end Mr De Lange recommended that the problem be solved by incorporating the definition of a branch office into the definition of "Office".

Mr De Lange had reservations on the use of the word "attached" and recommended that Mr Labuschagne find a different word with the same meaning. Mr Labuschagne said that he had previously considered the phrase to read "people who are members of the Office", but that it might be construed too wide.

Section 5
According to Mr De Lange, S5(1) reads that the person to be appointed as head of the branch office has to have the appropriate witness protection officer skills and expertise. This will create a Catch-22 situation because there is nobody in the country with witness protection officer skills and expertise. He suggested that the sentence be changed to read "appoint a fit and proper person with appropriate expertise, skills, knowledge or experience, as a witness protection officer who shall be the head of such branch office. This would allow for the appointment of a person as witness protection officer if he has appropriate skills and knowledge, not necessarily witness protection officer skills. Mr De Lange’s proposal was accepted.

In S5(6)(b) it was suggested by Mr De Lange that "who has not entered into a protection agreement with the Director" should be deleted in order to avoid repetition, because it is implied in the words "notwithstanding the provisions of section 8(2). Mr. Labuschagne undertook to look at Mr De Lange’s suggestion.

Mrs Camerer suggested that "concerned" be left out from the words "interested functionary concerned", because it is repetitive. This was rejected by Mr De Lange and Labuschagne on the basis that the definition of interested functionary made provision for more than one category.

The committee decided unanimously that in S5(8) "placed" and "placement under" should replace the word "granted" and "granting of", because it is better English.

Section 7
Mr De Lange was concerned that S7(1) did not specifically mention the proceedings. Mr Labuschagne however showed that the definition of witness contain reference to proceedings and that the definition of proceedings contain all the relevant proceedings in issue.

The IFP suggested that the section be expanded so that witnesses who have reason to believe that their safety or that of related persons may be threatened are also included in S7(1). Dr Van Heerden was of the opinion that the IFP’s concern is dealt with by the words "reason to believe". Mr De Lange confirmed that it is an important consideration that must be considered and should be included.

Imam Solomon (ANC), referring to S7(1)(b), wanted to know why the investigating officer may make an application only on behalf of the witness and not on behalf of any other persons related to the witness. According to Mr De Lange it is a policy issue that will have to be looked at again.

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